A week on the web: the Raspberry Pi

The launch of the Raspberry Pi – a no-frills computer that costs just £22 – was so well received that the websites selling it crashed. But is the device set to revolutionise the way in which children learn IT, as the inventors hope? We tested the online waters to find out

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  1. A new computer went on sale this week. It doesn’t have a keyboard or screen, and won’t win any design plaudits from Jonathan Ive. And yet the device - the size of a credit card - sold out immediately, crashing the websites selling it in the process.
  2. Here’s David Braben, one of the inventors of the Raspberry Pi, explaining the concept to the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones in May last year.
  3. Raspberry Pi - the £15 computer
  4. In short, its creators hope it will inspire a new generation of schoolchildren to learn to program, just as the Sinclair Spectrum and BBC Micro did in the 1980s. The Pi may be humble, but its impact could be profound. The Guardian even devoted an editorial to it.
  5. The enthusiastic reaction online suggests Braben’s hopes may be fulfilled. Here’s Cellan-Jones again:
  6. That second tweet was typical of the reaction on Twitter, as some were quick to point out.
  7. People a bit like this perhaps.
  8. One 40-something man wrote this article for zdnet.co.uk:
  9. Key quote from that piece: “I’m 48, I also think that Scalextric and model kits are things children play with. In reality the people who buy such things are my age and older. Today’s kids aren’t interested. The world has moved on. The BBC Micro does not need to be repeated. Yes it would be great to have today’s teens learning about how a computer works, how to write code and solder a good connection, but the analogy has been made that programming is the new Latin and it holds true.”

    So will the people it’s aimed at – children – embrace this with the same enthusiasm as geeks on a nostalgia trip? Let’s hope so. As our own Martin Belam pointed out, the way in which IT is taught in schools is due an overhaul. 
  10. Braben certainly has some form when it comes to technology innovation, so he could be on to a winner. He helped invent the seminal 80s computer game Elite.
  11. BBC Micro game Elite
  12. Yes kids, that’s what computer games were like back in the mid-80s. Here’s Fred Harris – better known to viewers of children’s TV in the 80s as Chock-A-Bloke – extolling the virtues of the ‘cutting edge’ Amiga 32 and a fancy new visual programming language.
  13. BBC Micro Live 1986 - Computer Animation
  14. So will Raspberry Pi turn out to have the same impact on this generation of kids as Elite, the BBC Micro and Sinclair Spectrum had on the children of yesteryear? Only time will tell. One thing’s for sure: its name has a certain resonance to it.
  15. Until next week.
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